San Pedro La Laguna

Posted from San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá Department, Guatemala.

San Pedro la Laguna

Outside the market in San Pedro.

Getting there

The race to San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan was a thing onto itself. We were told the journey would take 10 hours, (plus the boat ride) but someone else told us to count on 14 hours. The issue was the boats stop going across the lake at a certain time, and we were getting conflicting reports as to when that time was. Luck was on our side, though, as a musician was on our shuttle who was scheduled to play in Panajachel that evening at 7 p.m. It was imperative, he told the bus driver, that we make it. And we did. In 10 hours. It was most likely a record.

The shuttle (200Q)  left Lanquin just after 8 a.m. and we arrived in Panajachel, the main city on the northern shore of Lake Atitlan, by 6pm. We were able to catch the 6:30 boat (Q25) to San Pedro even though it was already quite dark. The mission in San Pedro was to visit a friend who lived there, and whom I met some four years ago on a bus in Cambodia. Guatemala would be the fifth country we’ve seen each other in.

San Pedro

Off the shore of the lake, behind the village of San Pedro.

San Pedro

Lake Atitlan is beautiful. Astounding. Breathtaking. But we didn’t get to see much of it. We did, however, party a lot. There are other villages around the lake that provide a more local and profound experience of life here, but my main intent was to visit, because we all like visitors when we’re far from home.

San Pedro sits at 1500m and it’s cold. It was winter while we were there and the evening temps were dropping to 11C. I imagine it can get colder. Volcanos and mountains surround it, protecting it in some ways, hiding it in others. Water is on a bit of a shortage, and signs in our hostel Mr. Mullets (70Q/night) tell us to be brief with our showers. Although, they have piping hot water, and, so I’m told, the best showers in the village.

Lake atitlan

Boats rule the lake. They are the fastest way to get anywhere. Notice the volcano?

So what did we do?

We go to the local bar, Sublime, and people are freely doing lines of coke on the table. We’re a bit shocked, but it seems normal. The police, however, are not to be taken lightly in Guatemala. Drugs are very illegal. We saw a girl on our first night asking quite loudly where she could get some coke – only five meters or so away from an armed police officer. It was pretty much like every other back packer place we’ve been.

One afternoon we went to Smokin Joes for their barbecue. It’s an all you can eat buffet (after you buy your meat of choice, which determines your price.) There’s a pool, and a bar, and everything you need to have a cool afternoon with a full belly.


Tuktuks are the main transport for hire. Many of the streets are very narrow.

But the influx of expats doesn’t seem to sit well with the locals – who can shut a business down nearly at will, and have done so. Almost all businesses are closed by 11 p.m. All music must stop by 11 p.m., and bars close by 1 a.m. On a plus side, happy hour starts nice and early.

San pedro

One of the many narrow streets in the very touristy area.

It’s easy to get around the lake, and there’s lots to do, swimming, volcano hikes, shopping, boat rides, coffee tours, etc. But most people, it appears, come for Spanish lessons as it’s much cheaper here than anywhere we’ve been so far in Guatemala. I would have thought the opposite with it being such a remote location – but I’m also learning that the cooler temperatures, volcanic soil, and rain make for great growing conditions. They don’t rely much on outside produce. Everything can be done locally.

San Pedro market

Selling wares in San Pedro La Laguna at the market.

The gist

Hippies are everywhere. Crystals. Flower of Life. Yoga. Reiki. Leather sandals. Turquoise. If you want your chakras cleansed, someone might do it for lunch. Our time in San Pedro was brief, but it’s easy to see why people stick around for long periods of time. The energy is good, and the party fantastic.

We booked a shuttle to Antigua – the old capital of the Guatemalan Empire – and hope it only takes the three hours we’re told it will take.

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